León Gallery’s yearend auction a fitting tribute to the joyous season for Filipino families

/ 12:06 AM November 30, 2023
Juan Luna and His Wife Paz

Juan Luna and His Wife Paz — Juan Luna (1857 – 1899)

León Gallery invites everyone to see the finest in Philippine art in its much-awaited year-end sale, The Kingly Treasures Auction 2023, happening this December 2, 2023, Saturday, at 2 PM.

“Our December auction features a number of famous families whose fates are intertwined with our history,” writes Leon Gallery Director Jaime Ponce de Leon in the auction catalog’s foreword. “Family is everything. And nowhere is this more true, fittingly enough, in this season meant for families.”


One such family is the illustrious family of Juan Luna, whose works are a major highlight in the December auction. His pieces Juan Luna and His Wife Paz and Study of Paz Picking Flowers in a Garden give glimpses into the couple’s private life. Both works come from the esteemed collection of former Ambassador to Spain Pedro Conlu Hernaez, whom Ponce de Leon describes as “a political force in his own right who would be instrumental in the founding of Bacolod as a charter city.” Hernaez’s work in Spain led him to discovering the world of Juan Luna firsthand. His daughter Cecilia would eventually marry Miguel Magsaysay, the brother of another featured artist in this auction, Anita Magsaysay-Ho.

Study of Paz Picking Flowers in a Garden

Study of Paz Picking Flowers in a Garden — Juan Luna (1857 – 1899)

From the collection of Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera is a rare copy of National Hero Jose Rizal’s Mi Retiro, his loving message to his fellow Filipinos, and the companion poem to his last work, the beautifully poignant Mi Ultimo Adios. (The original copy of Mi Retiro was given to Rizal’s mother, Doña Teodora Alonzo.)


“Brothers-in-arms, Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera and none other than our National Hero Jose Rizal would share a bond built on shared values, and no greater proof of that is that Rizal would copy out in his own hand a poem and send that signed to T.H. Pardo de Tavera as a gesture of their deep friendship,” Ponce de Leon says. “Originally meant for Rizal’s mother, who asked him to return to writing poetry, it contains a deep message to our shared country. (Felix Pardo de Tavera is represented as well with a pyro-engraved portrait of a Roman woman.)”

Another eminent family included in this collection are the Amorsolos. Two of National Artist Fernando Amorsolo’s works are offered depicting the tensions and horrors of the Second World War: Market Scene, one of Amorsolo’s first depictions of his now-iconic subject, and Woman at the Fall of Bataan, which showcases Amorsolo’s famous dalaga, anguished and tormented amid a burning landscape. A rare bronze engraving designed and made by Amorsolo himself for the 1927 Manila Carnival is also a major highlight of this collection. Fernando’s younger brother, Pablo Amorsolo, is as skilled as his more famous sibling, as evidenced by his work Country Road.

Roman Woman

Roman Woman — Felix Pardo de Tavera (1859 – 1932)

“An Anita Magsaysay-Ho is always a significant part of any auction,” says Ponce de Leon, and this sale highlights the stunning 1957 work by Magsaysay-Ho entitled Harvesters. Appearing twice on the walls of the Philippine Art Gallery (PAG), Harvesters depicts the lush mountains of Magsaysay-Ho’s childhood summers in the idyllic environs of Zambales. This Anita comes from the collection of Dee Kee Chiong, passing it to his wife Regina Dee, who eventually gave the piece to her husband’s long-time loyal secretary, Leticia B. Lucas.

Another regal highlight of this sale is Carlos V. Francisco’s Bayanihan, the only known easel-sized work in oil of his Bayanihan mural (which exists in a private collection) and is from the collection of an American couple, Herbert and Gertrud Harder, who once lived in New York’s posh Fifth Avenue. The Harders, as the León catalog puts it, “would find themselves in Manila in the 1960s, and on a note scribbled on the Times Journal of August 1, 1977 by Gertrud Harder, record their recollection of meeting the famous Botong Francisco and the short history of the painting, “Bayanihan.” Mrs. Harder, in particular, had during her husband’s stay in the Philippines, had befriended Botong and other artists while she lived in Manila. The couple would take the work home upon their return to the United States and display it in their home”

“We have bought from Carlos Francisco (Botong) the “Bayanihan” painting which Herbert had asked him to paint for him when we were in his house in Angono,” says in Gertrud’s handwriting in the aforementioned Times Journal. “One of Herbert’s employees, who lived in Angono introduced us to him.”

A familial bond forged by that unrelenting dedication to elevate Philippine art and usher it into its fullest potential, the Modernists take center stage in this auction with some of the most coveted lots, including Fernando Zobel’s Recreo con Raya Roja, one of his last works before his passing in 1984; Hernando R. Ocampo’s dynamic Dreams; Vicente Manansala’s interpretations of the popular subject of Mother and Child—Pieta and Madonna; Mauro Malang Santos’ Escapulario, which formed part of his landmark 1967 exhibit at The Luz Gallery that signaled his first foray into serious painting; Ramon Estella’s Idylle and Jester; Victorio Edades’s 1978 portrait Lady in Maria Clara (Juliet Reyes); and Florencio B. Concepcion’s early work House of God.

Market Scene (En Plein-Air) Fernando Amorsolo (1892 - 1972)

Market Scene (En Plein-Air) — Fernando Amorsolo (1892 – 1972)

Intertwined with the theme of history, the bul’ul statues in this auction, originating from the late 19th century to the early 20th century and representing the complex belief system of the animist societies of Ifugao, are not to be missed.


The avant-garde lineage of Filipino contemporary artists grace the sale, once again demonstrating the Filipino artist’s dedication to experimentation and honing of one’s versatility. This selection includes Ramon Orlina’s Mt. Zion, which sublimely depicts the biblical mountain where Yahweh dwells; Kawayan de Guia’s mixed media interpretation of a curiosity cabinet in Subtle Repercussions; Jose John Santos III’s A Collection of Stories IV; and Elaine Navas’s Red Parachute.

As the year ends, and as we draw the curtains of the glorious celebrations of our nation’s 125th birth anniversary, several artists take on the challenge and show the collective struggles of the Filipino people. In Emmanuel Garibay’s Pilipino (2012), he grapples with the memory of Emilio Aguinaldo and ponders the questions regarding his heroism. Inspired by Nick Joaquin’s A Heritage of Smallness and El Camino Real, Garibay confronts the audience by asking the hard questions about Aguinaldo.

National Artist Benedicto Cabrera grapples with the same questions in his 1994 Larawan Series. In his depiction of three Filipina women, Bencab reminds us of our connection with our valiant female ancestors and the continuing resistance that has been ongoing for multiple generations.

“There are many treasures that remain to be uncovered in the last months of our country’s 125th year of the birth of the Filipino nation,” Ponce de Leon happily remarks. “We once more look forward to an exciting and fulfilling year.

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